What Would Science Do?

Aug 28 2013 @ 11:02am
by Brendan James

Here’s some New Atheist crack: a study showing that merely thinking about science triggers moral behavior. Researchers at UC Santa Barbara “primed” participants with scientific buzzwords and then administered a series of moral quizzes:

Participants first completed a word scramble task during which they either had to unscramble some of these science-related words or words that had nothing to do with science. They then either read [a story about date-rape] and answered the same questions regarding the severity of that transgression (Study 2), reported the degree to which they intended to perform a variety of altruistic actions over the next month (Study 3), or engaged in a behavioral economics task known as the dictator game (Study 4). …

Across all these different measures, the researchers found consistent results. Simply being primed with science-related thoughts increased a) adherence to moral norms, b) real-life future altruistic intentions, and c) altruistic behavior towards an anonymous other. The conceptual association between science and morality appears strong.